Beginning with a simple way to explain how epic the adventure through the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) caves were, we will start by saying that National Geographic named the ATM caves the most sacred cave in the world! Not only that, the ATM cave is a mind blowing adventure as you walk, wade, and swim through the caves river, including some tight spaces, and very large areas. You get to observe all the different formations in the cave including flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, etc. Along the way you learn so much history of the mayan culture back thousands of years ago. The ATM caves require you to be with a guide and are a popular trip to take from San Ignacio as it located relatively near there, but also from other places offering it around Belize. Unfortunately, in the ATM cave you cannot bring any belongings in with you, and therefore, we have no pictures to share so you’ll just have to experience the amazing adventure for yourself!
The Price Tag
When planning to do something, being budget backpackers we always want to know the price to help ourselves stay on budget. To visit the ATM caves you are required to take a tour with a guide. This is to protect the sacred monument as well as for your safety. From San Ignacio we paid $170BZD ($85USD) per person and your group is a maximum of 8 people. When we heard the price we were hesitant to book the tour. WE DO NOT REGRET GOING WAY OVER BUDGET FOR THIS ADVENTURE! IT WAS SOOO WORTH IT!
A trip to the ATM caves is your one way trip to a day in the life of Lara Croft (Tomb Raider for anybody that does not know). Our mind was absolutely blown at how amazing this spelunking experience was. We trekked up and down boulders and formations of the cave, walked and swam through the caves river, squeezed through some tighter places, and observed the beauty of some very large chambers. The trip through is not incredibly intense, but does require some physical ability. The final destination of the cave before making your way out is where you find out the history of the cave and why it is so sacred! After you come out of the cave you get a nice Belizean lunch before heading out.
A Brief History
Thousands of years ago the Mayan people used the ATM cave as a sacred ceremonial site, including sacrifices of items and humans. When you reach the final chamber that you will be spelunking too, you get to see pots and human bone remains that are calcified to the cave floor that were a part of the Mayan ceremonies. You also may get to see the crystallized skull! We do not want to say too much about the history because the guides will tell it way better and in a much more exciting!
We both agree that visiting the ATM cave was one of the most incredible experiences along our travels (as of May 2018) and we’ve visited quite a few places. Although the price of this tour was well over our ideal daily budget, we would recommend this to anybody and everybody! The only disappointing part was that there was not more hours in the day to explore even more areas of this amazing cave!